Big Brother begins – but does anybody still care?

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Tonight, for the ninth year in a row, the presenter Davina McCall will bound enthusiastically on to our television screens to unveil this year's Big Brother contestants, including a Muslim convert, a Thai Buddhist and a reformed gangster who was deported from America.

But who will be watching? And as Channel 4 argues its case for a £150m annual public subsidy, is the ageing reality TV show really the kind of programme it should be making?

Viewing figures for last year's series were the worst ever, averaging just 3.8 million compared with an average of 4.5 million viewers in 2006. And the show has been struck by a series of rows over racism and bullying.

Following the lacklustre performance of Big Brother 8, Endemol, which makes the programme for Channel 4, has attempted to breathe new life into the format. The executive producer Phil Edgar-Jones insisted that this year's contestants are "people with a bit of depth" rather than "screaming wannabes".

He said: "It gets written off every year. It's down to the contestants and the housemates we pick; it almost doesn't matter what twists and turns we introduce. We have got people you might not have seen on any show like this before. These people have got a little more to offer."

There are 16 contestants in the new series – four more than usual – including four housemates with children, three who have been born outside of the UK, one who has had a breast enlargement and a former child actor who appeared in the film Night Train To Venice with Hugh Grant, as well as the first couple to appear on Big Brother.

Phil Mahoney, broadcast account director at the media agency PHD said: "Big Brother is a bit tired, but it's irreplaceable for Channel 4. If they did drop Big Brother, they would miss out on a show that will deliver 4 million viewers a night and bring in younger viewers. They need something big to happen this year." There are still two years left to run on Channel 4's contract with Endemol and Mr Mahoney fully expects to see series 10 and 11. But programme chiefs will be keeping an anxious eye on ratings for tonight's debut.

The contestants

Alexandra, 23, Accounts executive: Single mum. Islam convert who is now non-practising

Jennifer, 22, Part-time model: Full-time mum. Vegetarian against fox-hunting and fur

Kathreya, 30, Massage therapist: Big Brother's first Thai housemate, now a UK citizen

Lisa, 40, Sales rep. One half of the first couple to enter the house. Dating Mario

Rachel, 24, Trainee teacher: A former child actor who starred with Hugh Grant

Rebecca, 21, Nursery nurse: Attention-seeker who wants to be rich and famous

Stephanie, 19, Student: Kicked off Popstars for lying about her age. Now plays guitar in band

Sylvia, 21, Student: Family fled Sierra Leone. Attends church every Sunday

Dennis, 23, Dance studentand teacher: Self-confessed egotist

Dale, 21, Student: Part-time DJ training to be a PE teacher who likes 'fit' girls

Darnell, 26, Songwriter: Born in UK, raised in St Louis but deported for gang crime

Luke, 20, Politics student: Referees wrestling and likes wearing suits from Asda

Mario, 42, Former tag officer at the Home Office: Other half of the first BB couple

Michael, 33, Radio producer: Lost his sight 10 years ago while having operation

Mohamed, 23, Toy demonstrator: Born in Somalia. Wants to win to help family

Rex, 24, Executive chef: London socialite born into a family of restaurateurs

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Manager (EMEA) - City, London

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Manager...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?